‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. How do you know the truth? Arm yourselves with knowledge and understanding. Someone once said ‘if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance’. Without knowledge and understanding the truth will most likely be elusive. Many times we are misinformed by those in position of power and influence without us knowing so.
We need to inform ourselves enough to know the difference between being misinformed and being informed by those in power. Being informed I mean you are given sufficient knowledge that empowers you to sufficiently understand the world around you in order for you to make informed choices.
With this knowledge, you as an individual will be able to discern the truth and take appropriate action. I have posted a number of articles in this publication and have received overwhelming encouragement to share more. More and more Batswana want to know the truth about their country. I will continue to share as a way of giving back to my fellow citizens. Some will criticise and some will embrace, but, as we begin to engage each other positively we will all learn something from each other and more importantly find ways to help each other.
I stumbled upon a book by some writer, Allen White entitled “The Great Hope’’. I was immediately inspired to write about the great hope I desire for our country and people. The great hope that one day this country will be able to reach its full potential in terms of development. The great hope that one day all our people young and old, rich and poor will be engaged meaningfully in the transformation of their country.
The great hope that one day the rich resources that God has richly bestowed upon this country will be enjoyed fully by all our people. The great hope that one day the leadership will understand that they are servants and not masters of the people. The great hope that one day our leaders will understand that each person has a specific role to play in the development of this country. No one is a mistake! The great hope that our leaders will understand that we are building a foundation for future generations.
As I went through the pages of this book, my attention was drawn to a chapter entitled “Why there is suffering?” Suffering, what suffering, I asked myself? It donned on me that there is indeed suffering; silent suffering endured every day by many of our people. This hidden suffering reminded me of a scientific observation that a frog will suffer silently until it dies if it settles in an open bowl of water that is slowly being heated up.
The poor frog does not realise that the water is heating up and now boiling. It accepts the situation and does not take action until it eventually dies in that situation. The tragedy is that the frog is not aware that it is in a life threatening situation. Many of our people have been made to accept situations similar to that of this frog. They do not have knowledge to understand the grim situations around them and therefore they will not take appropriate action.
Yes, there is suffering! The gross unemployment and under-employment that should have long been eliminated is causing immeasurable suffering. The pain has made some of the unemployed accept the situation as their fate. Many have been removed from the list of the unemployed. We have graduates, educated at a huge cost to nation, who are roaming the streets with nothing meaningful to do. We have interns who are filing and making tea in offices with no prospects for permanent jobs. We have poverty amongst our people which have been allowed to grow unchecked.
We have suffering in many dark corners of this republic; the elderly, the disabled, the sick in hospitals with inadequate health care systems; the children who walk long distances to school and being taught under trees in bad weather with inadequate clothing; the children whose education condemns them to a life without any prospects for advancement and prosperity; teachers and officers with inadequate accommodation, where more than one family share one small house; the starving wages imposed on the majority of employees! The list is long; our people who are subjected to unfair treatment by authorities because ‘ke bo eseng mang’; corruption, nepotism, favouritism in high places. Yes there is suffering.
The people who are subjected to this suffering eventually, like the frog accept the suffering as normal and ‘die’ or resort to some undesirable means to survive or to endure the suffering. Only a coherent, selfless, truthful and caring leadership will bring this suffering under control.
This article is meant for deep introspection for our people especially those within the opposition ranks. I believe God’s plan of hope and prosperity for this nation will be achieved through a united opposition that is God fearing and stands for justice and fair play for all. So it is imperative for them to introspect and build an inclusive, corruption-free formidable force for change.
I now paraphrase and adapt from the chapter entitled ‘why there is suffering’ to buttress my point:
‘Before the entrance of sin in the universe there was peace and joy throughout. Love for God was supreme. Love for one another was impartial. The law of love was the foundation of God’s government. The happiness of all the created beings depended on their acceptance of the principles of justice and righteousness. God took no pleasure in forced allegiance and therefore granted all free will, so that they may render Him voluntary service. Some highly placed son chose to pervert this freedom and sin entered’.
‘Leaving his place in the presence of God, the son went forth to spread discontent amongst the inhabitants of heaven. Mysteriously concealing his real purpose he endeavored to excite dissatisfaction concerning laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they were unfair and limiting. He urged them to obey only the dictates of their own will. He claimed he was not aiming for self-exaltation but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants so that they may attain higher level of existence’.
‘He was not moved from his privileged position in heaven, even when he began presenting false claims before the inhabitants. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. At first he did not understand the real selfish nature of his actions, but as his dissatisfaction was proved to be unfounded and convinced that the divine claims were true and just, pride forbade him from acknowledging before all heavens and to repent. He instead, resolved that there was no need for repentance and fully committed himself to continued confrontation with his father’.
‘He intensified his deception to secure the sympathy of the inhabitants. All those who did not agree with him; he accused of indifference to the interests of the heavenly beings. It became his policy to manipulate the inhabitants with defiant and subtle arguments concerning the purpose of his father. By artful perversion he cast doubt upon every statement made by his father. His position gave him power and influence and many were induced to unite with him. He remained stubborn and defiant claiming to be an innocent victim. He was eventually banished from heaven for ever’.
I would like to challenge our opposition parties to look at the above probing story closely and ask themselves these questions. Who is responsible for the perpetuation of suffering in our country, the land of bountiful resources? What should be done now to get our people out of this suffering? I would like the leadership in particular and the members in general to look in the mirror and see if there are not partly or entirely responsible for this suffering.
Have we not deviated from the cause to liberate our people? Have we not allowed ourselves as individuals to be used, misled and made to turn against each other by cunningly undermining one another and claiming undeserved supremacy like the son in the story? Are we honest and not pursuing selfish interests at the expense of our people? How long has this been going on? Are there any irreconcilable differences within the opposition ranks or are there only personal differences and preferences that have taken centre stage? We need to reconcile our artificial differences and become one big force for change. We should not get to a point where some are ‘banished forever’.
We need to collectively get our people to understand the issues around them to avoid being easily manipulated by those self-seeking individuals who want power at any cost. Hitler once said, ‘if you tell lies all the time eventually people will accept these lies as truths’. RB, BTV and Botswana daily newspaper are used as government propaganda machines meant to prevent the real suffering in the country from being revealed.
These government news agencies are micromanaged to report in such a way that makes it appear that the government is caring, does not have adequate resources and uses the available resources prudently to serve its citizens. The president goes around the country at the expense of the nation giving out blankets, radios, houses and soup. Our people need self-sustaining programs not sympathy from the president. We know the country has unmatched resources in the region and these resources are used corruptly by the privileged few. The false picture presented to the unsuspecting public and the international community severely compromises the reality on the ground.
It is therefore important that all those who can see through this musk, must work together to fight the injustices imposed on our people. Working together will have the desired effect of getting more with less! The financial, the manpower and the intellectual capacity will multiply. The reach to our people will be much wider and deeper. The support from local and international interests will multiply.
The ability to remove the musk for the truth and the reality to be seen will be magnified.
The elections are gone and the people have spoken and spoken very clearly. True leaders have heard the people and will honour their voice. Those in the opposition ranks who want to justify a so called ‘multiparty’ democracy are missing the point. Batswana have spoken and want one voice against the ruling party. This one voice is the voice of the government in waiting.
The 801,000 people who did not vote will only vote to support a ‘two’ party democracy. With our small population, it is naive to be divided into small parties. It is even more naive to expect their vote to make any difference in the outcome the election especially with these parties are selling the same election package. Have it ever occurred to you that the multiplicity of parties was meant to allow the ruling party to be kept in power forever? It is the old ‘divide and rule’ dictum that has worked to keep the one party a perpetual winner. These people are saying, ‘swallow your pride, work together and we will support you.’
In closing, only those leaders, blinded by their own desire for top leadership positions will continue to advocate for divisions within the opposition ranks, despite the loud voice coming from the electorate. It is time for the opposition to come together as one, fight as one, speak with one voice for the sole purpose of truly liberating our people from the shackles of the current misguided government and for building a solid foundation for future generations.
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org